Lake Helen

category : Recreation
Lake Helen Foresighted citizens approved a bond issue in 1889 for construction of a 12 mile canal that would connect the northwest part of town to the river. This created electric power, the beginnings of an irrigation system and a man-made lake that spurred industrial, community and agricultural growth that has become the hallmark of Gothenburg's success throughout its history. By 1892, Gothenburg residents had electricity -- the first in western Nebraska -- and the canal system was providing power for numerous industries. Community volunteers cleared land and erected buildings to develop a park area adjacent to the lake in the early 1900s. The Campfire Girls dedicated Lafayette Park to the north of the lake which marked the initial development. The Boy Scouts later used the area and cabins were constructed. In 1932, the Chamber of Commerce planted 600 pine trees. In the 1950s and 60s, the lake silted in until it was redesigned and rejuvenated in the 1970s by massive volunteer labor and community support and is now a shining jewel in Gothenburg's recreation and attractions crown.

The Lake Helen Recreation Area on the north edge of Gothenburg features activities for the whole family. Citizens have used the lake for swimming, boating, ice skating and other recreational activities since its creation. Today, it boasts a two-mile long walking trail, a rustic covered bridge and foot bridge, numerous picnic shelters complete with barbecues, two sand volleyball courts, state-of-the-art playground equipment, a special war memorial and flourishing trees, flowers and shrubs. A variety of large and small lakes nearby provide good fishing and boating.

It is not only a place for community celebrations such as the Fourth of July barbecue and fireworks display, but it also attracts an abundance of waterfowl as well as eagles, pheasants and countless other birds.

Many local clubs and organizations have contributed to maintaining the beauty of Lake Helen. The impact of these multiple projects is reflected in the waters of the lake on a soft summer night as citizens and visitors stroll or jog along the path near the water's edge. It is also seen in the excited face of a youngster as she reels in her first fish. That impact shines through in the contented face of a senior citizen as he sits on a park bench at the lake feeding bread crumbs to the geese.

The story of Lake Helen continues as a public park lives on -- in continuing improvements and maintenance and also in the myriad of activities that take place there -- in the many uses this community discovers for its beautiful facility and the pride it takes in its efforts.

Address: North Lake Avenue

Come visit us in Gothenburg, Nebraska

Attractions and Upcoming Events

The Sun Theatre

The Sun Theatre was built and used as an opera house from 1909-1926. In 1927, the theatre was opened by Glen VanWey. Children were charged 10 cents and adults 20 cents for silent movies accompanied by an orchestra. The 1930

Gothenburg, NE Theatres

Pony Express Station

The Sam Machette Station was used as an early fur trading post/ranch house along the Oregon Trail southwest of Gothenburg before it was used as a Pony Express station during its operation between April 1860 and November 1861

Gothenburg, NE Pony Express

Swedish Crosses Cemetery

For over a century, three unique crosses have been a lasting symbol of the Swedish heritage of Gothenburg. In the early 1880s, Peter and Anna Berg, along with Anna'

Gothenburg, NE Cemeteries

First Presbyterian Church

In August of 1904, the ground on which the church now stands was purchased for the sum of $450. Ground was broken in August 1905 and the original building was competed in early 1907. At that time, the total cost of the building was $5,650. The beautiful stain glass windows are original.

Gothenburg, NE Historic Churches

Pony Express Mural

The Pony Express galloped through the West in 18 short months before Nebraska gained statehood. The historic value of those early times is being preserved in Gothenburg, which was named Pony Express Capital of Nebraska in 1991

Gothenburg, NE Arts

Things to do Recreation near Gothenburg, NE


Hunters come to Harlan County from every state in the Union for deer, turkey, pheasant, quail, ducks, geese, and doves. Su...

McCook Hunting

Known by hunting enthusiasts across the country, Southwest Nebraska flourishes with wildlife and serves as an excellent hunti...

Hunting in Lexington

The excellent supply of game birds makes Lexington a great headquarters for your hunting trips. Migratory water fowl can be f...


The Lincoln County are has long been a favorite of outdoor enthusiasts. They can hike, bike, fish, boat and hunt all w...